The Wichita Police Department has gathered at least $500 worth of restaurant gift cards to be handed out to the Wichita’s homeless community at 2:00 pm, this December 24th, in front of the Downtown Public Library. Officer Hubbard will be one of the officers distributing the gift cards. While Hubbard is not a member of the department’s Homeless Outreach Team (HOT), he does often work the shift at the Downtown Public Library.
Homeless people often frequent the library to keep warm this time of year, and the city keeps an officer on duty at the downtown location. The officers who work the library beat have a lot of interaction with the homeless community, most of whom know the library rules (no sleeping, quiet voices, etc.).
The Homeless Outreach Team currently only has funding for four officer positions. In addition to the HOT, the department is attempting to increase the number of officers who receive Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), which helps officers to effectively interact with those suffering from mental health issues, as many homeless people do.
All Wichita police officers receive 4 hours of CIT, but it takes 40 hours of training to become CIT certified. While funding is an issue, manpower is also an obstacle to overcome, because officers taking a week long class have to have their shifts covered as well, which makes it difficult to get all officers certified.
Due to state budget cuts to mental health services, police officers are often the only people available to respond to calls involving mental health issues. Due to the lack of beds in mental health facilities, mental health patients often end up on the streets, spending their days in places such as the library, to avoid the weather.
Recent protests have called for all officers to be CIT certified, as well as for an increase in the types of community policing that the Homeless Outreach Team utilizes, not just for the homeless, but for everyone the department serves. The goal, organizers say, is to expand the programs within the Wichita Police Department that best serve the community.